"Goje-do" Koje-do by hindu1936

Koje-do Travel Guide: 22 reviews and 57 photos

The beauty of the Island

Until 1950, Goje Island was only a fishing island. During the next 10 years, the shipbuilding began again and today, represents the most important industry on the island. During the late 1600's, Admiral Yi had his turtle boats built on the mainland just across the strait at Tongyeong. It was the here that the Japanese invaders first attacked during the Jiwil wars.

The first built up of people took place in 1950 when the first North Korean prisoners of war were interned on the island. The prisoner of war camp is still there, fully restored and open for visitors. With the slowdown in shipbuilding, fishing has returned to a very important source of income, second only to tourism.

Lee, Chang Ho and his wife built a botanical garden for thier own pleasure that turned into a tourist attraction. This led to the entire area for 50 km around turning into a tourist zone. There are Dinosaur bone expositions, floral presentations, rides around the islands on cruise boats, and roads leading to every building extant or recreated that housed a famous person. The tourist trade is apparent by the existence of "Outback" "VIPs" and other western eateries to the extent that in some areas finding korean food is difficult. All this, however can be put aside with just 10 minutes of driving to the sides of the island, espcially the east side. fishing villages still serve noodles and shrimp with clams for a few bucks. You can stop and talk to someone without them expecting pay for the effort.

The ceramic pots

Because Kochu chang or pepper paste is part of nearly every meal, there is a significance far beyond just food value to its storage. Moreso on some of the islands where they are cut off from the mainland during the winter months and food takes a social bearing in sharing, loving, festivals, and so on. Some of the ceramic pots are works of art. Food plays such an important part in Korean culture that to separate the vocabulary from the food is impossible. There are terms of greeting that while interpreted as "how are you" actually are "have you had rice yet today" and "have a good day" is "I hope you travel with a full stomach" "Eat your fill" and other phrases connote a society saturated with familial relationships that should not be disregarded by a visitor.

My wife and I had been married for less than a year when I held my first American Thanksgiving dinner. Some military friends were gracious enough to supply me with all the goodies, and I had found a place where I could order a stove with an oven. Most Korean homes at that time didn't have ovens and most wives had no idea of what they would do with one anyhow. I cooked a monster turkey, made pies, cakes, jello, --everything. At the end of dinner, the women opened their bags and began shoveling the leftovers into the bags. I was a bit shocked, but said nothing.

My wife told me it was the highest compliment and I should have expected it. Even courtesy can revolve around food. The next week, I received a pot much like one in the photo. Sadly, I broke it while moving.

Don't expect everything to be big

The Goje school and village center is hardly what one would expect. If a visitor has only kept to the main roads and seen the tourist sights, then missed will be the places where the people live, work, go to school and pay their taxes. Remember that the tourist part is all artificial and relatively recent. Prior to 1950, when the POW camp was cited there, the island had practically nothing of interest and fewer than 20,000 residents in all of the islets, islands and adjoining immediate mainland area.
The island served as a naval base long ago, became a ship building place and a seat of government for the area, but there was no reason for a tourist to go to Goje-do until the mid-70's. People worked, shopped, and married--had their own customs, quirks, and dialects. Visit some of these places and see a different lifestyle away from the frenzied tourist trade.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:clean air, good seafood,
  • Cons:extremely croweded summers and weekends
  • In a nutshell:Really off the beaten tourist trail, but worth the visit.
  • Last visit to Koje-do: May 2009
  • Intro Updated May 4, 2009
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Comments (2)

  • mircaskirca's Profile Photo
    May 17, 2009 at 6:02 AM

    Hi Joe! I had to laugh about how ended your first Thanksgiving dinner :) Very unusual habit for us westerners :) How are your preparations for the big trip going on?

  • tiabunna's Profile Photo
    May 15, 2009 at 7:03 AM

    Interesting reading and it sounds an interesting visit - outside peak traffic hours. :) But what a b... about the camera card!

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